My father raised me on the classics.
Laurel and Hardy. The Marx Brothers. The Three Stooges. And my favorite, Abbott & Costello. Bud Abbott, the square straight man, and Lou Costello, the round fool.
I loved their ‘Who’s on First?’ routine, the way Lou yelled, “Heeeeeeeeeeey, Abbott!,” Bud’s self-important cluelessness. They were a force to be reckoned with.
Then I saw Abbott and Costello Go to Mars. And it was not a force to be reckoned with. It was a small, tired film, with only a few blazes of glory. The movie was painful. Not because of what the duo did. But because of what they didn’t do.
Boys, I wanted to tell my beloved clowns, you didn’t do yourselves justice.
I could spot it because I’d done it, too. I suspect we all have.
At some point, we’ve accepted less than we’re worth, prioritized quantity over quality, chosen money over intuition.
We’ve let our integrity out of our grasp.
Louise Nevelson made art. Big, dark art that commanded walls and challenged the lighter sculpture of her contemporaries. On January 30, 1972, Ms. Nevelson sat down for an oral history interview with the Smithsonian Archives of American Art. The sculptor was direct:
“How many people on earth face themselves anyway? How many dare to look in the mirror and say they have lived according to their own being? They have lived for the outside world.”
If we live for the outside world, we wind up in small, tired films.
But if we look in the mirror, if we live according to our own being, we are a force to be reckoned with. We hold our integrity firmly in our grasp. We do ourselves justice.
And that’s classic.